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Oakland A's Rotation, Jesse Hahn, Writing, Wall

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I have no inside information whatsoever on Jesse Hahn's health or his favorite vegetable, though I'm guessing the answer to one of them is possibly corn. With the A's having just signed Henderson Alvarez and still in the mix for Scott Kazmir, clearly Oakland is -- for good reason -- not aiming to build a 5-man rotation so much as a 6-month rotation with the depth to survive the inevitable injuries that beset young men who torque their elbows something fierce while throwing much too hard.

My presumption, for the past few weeks, is that the A's are not at all convinced that Jesse Hahn will be healthy in 2016 and are seeing if they might still be able to build a "contender's rotation" for 2016 should Hahn's elbow betray him. All the writing on the wall with Hahn is less than encouraging:

- Hahn missed all but one day of July, all of August and September, shut down with elbow inflammation.

- Hahn's strengthening program this fall was aborted when he felt continuing stiffness in his right forearm.

- Stiffness in the forearm is often (but not always) a precursor to inevitable Tommy John surgery, which brings us to the next problem...

- Hahn has already had TJS. So if this lingering inflammation and stiffness were not to heal without surgery, Hahn would be left facing a lost 2016 season and the challenge of returning as a "2-TJS survivor" with commensurate odds.

In other words, the A's really, really hope that rest between now and spring training leads to a clean bill of health and a spot in Oakland's rotation, where Hahn profiles as a legitimate #3 SP with #2 upside. If Hahn's elbow just won't cooperate? That's what I think the A's are bracing for, and doing so by going full steam ahead.

Here's one constant: Sonny Gray is the A's #1 SP and he's worthy of the title. It's probably unfair to hope for Rich Hill to provide the quality of a #2 SP, given all the uncertainty around his 4-start rebirth. Chris Bassitt has the stuff but probably slots in as a #3 SP at best, more likely a solid back-end SP, and the same can be said of Kendall Graveman. Aaron Brooks, Sean Nolin, and Felix Doubront would just be giddy to earn a spot in a rotation. Henderson Alvarez won't even be a factor until May at the earliest and likely Sean Manaea won't see the big leagues before June.

Where that leaves Oakland, at the moment, is with a potential hole in that elusive #2 spot -- and with enviable depth at the back of the rotation. Scott Kazmir would be the panacea, slotting right into that #2 spot, but are the A's willing to offer him the 4 years he is seeking to ward off his other suitors?

With Hahn, the A's are sitting, if not pretty, at least in perfectly good shape right now:

Gray
Hahn
Hill
Bassitt
Graveman

Doubront
Brooks
Nolin
Alvarez
Manaea

From that group you could hope, even with the onslaught of injuries, to put a strong rotation out there from wire to wire. Take out Hahn, though, and it falls apart from the git-go:

Gray
Hill
Bassitt
Graveman
Doubront

Brooks
Nolin
Alvarez
Manaea

Add a true #2, like Kazmir, and with or without Hahn you're anywhere from rock solid to "made in the shade":

Gray
Kazmir
(Hahn?)
Hill
Bassitt
Graveman

Doubront
Brooks
Nolin
Alvarez
Manaea

Why are the A's still talking seriously to Kazmir? And why are they not presuming that their rotation is ok as is? I have to think it comes back to doubt as to whether Hahn will be able to answer the bell, and the realization that if they want a chance to compete, Oakland can't wait until March to find out how Hahn's arm responds to rest.

As with Sean Doolittle last off-season and Jarrod Parker before him, I suspect the A's not only feel they need to hedge their bets with Hahn, but perhaps they even see the writing on the wall and are full-on planning without him.That means they need a FOTR pitcher if they want to take a serious shot at being competitive.

However, the A's have few #2 SPs available to try to land, most of them being well outside the Oakland's price range or costing the very prospects the A's are unwilling to move. Essentially, right now I think the A's are trying to flat out replace Hahn even though there is a chance he will be healthy, and Kazmir may be one of the very last, if not the last, hopes to fill that spot.

Writing, meet wall: If the A's is truly committed to trying to compete every season, it might be worth offering Kazmir that 4th year.